Labor serves up spending cuts and mining super profits

The Mining Rent Resource Tax was meant to be the way in which the massive profits of the mining boom were going to be spread around. But it turns out that the big mining companies have paid exactly nothing in the first three months and will probably pay nothing for the rest of the year and maybe longer.

The mining bosses are crying poor, but profits for 2011-12 for BHP and Rio Tinto alone were $15.4 billion and $5.9 billion, respectively. Yet Julia Gillard said, “We have implemented the mining tax that we believe is the right one for the nation.” What?! The tax has not raised a brass razoo.

The government is already saying there will be cuts in next year’s budget. Single parents benefits have been drastically cut back.

Federal Minister for Resources Martin Ferguson is pushing to let corporations off the hook further through the deregulation of retail power prices and privatisation of state electricity generation as part of the solution to rising power bills.

The Greens have called on the government to restore the original mining tax. By raising the tax, mining companies would pay $26 billion instead of the projected $9 billion over the next four years. Everyone should get behind The Greens’ call.

Raising $26 billion from the mining tax means there would be enough money to increase the dole and fund Labor’s promises on disabilities and education—and still leave the budget in surplus.

And extending corporate taxation could raise billions more. The four big banks made a profit of $25.2 billion this year. Westpac posted a record profit of $6.6 billion.

The bosses are pocketing fistfuls of cash, while jobs are slashed and the unemployed are pushed further and further below the poverty line. Macquarie Bank increased profits by 18 per cent to $361 million but has cut 739 jobs in the six months to September.

Westpac has cut 4000 jobs over the last two years year and plans more redundancies over the next year.

As the global crisis produces a slowdown in China and the world economy, Australia is not immune.

But rather than tax the rich, Gillard proposes more austerity measures in next year’s budget. Instead of a plan to create jobs, we got the government’s plan for “Australia in the Asian Century”—a rehashed grab-bag of things the government has announced before or already tried and failed.

Gillard’s push for increased “productivity” to meet the challenges of the Asian Century is code for more neo-liberalism and attacks on our working conditions

In February, Holden sacked 100 people. A month later, the Federal, South Australian, and Victorian governments together gave Holden a $275 million hand out. But there were no demands that Holden guarantee jobs and just seven months later Holden has announced 170 jobs will be cut by Christmas.

Hills Holding is also cutting 300 before the end of the year. Vodafone is slashing 500 office jobs by the end of November.

Global fightback
Everywhere, governments are imposing policies to force workers to pay for the bosses’ crisis. In early November, Greece was hit by a 48-hour general strike as the government pushed through another package of savage cuts.

On November 14, millions of workers across Europe are set to strike together in an unprecedented day of action against austerity, with general strikes planned in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Demonstrations have been called in France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

A fightback is needed here too. Labor’s obsession with respectable economic policy and producing a budget surplus is costing jobs and services. Its continued attacks on refugees show that it only concerned to race the Liberals to the right. Labor is subjecting asylum seekers to hell on Nauru, and is trying to deport asylum seekers to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Determined resistance by asylum seekers on Nauru is beginning to expose the appalling conditions there and Labor’s hypocrisy on offshore processing. Building the fight for refugee rights is part of the fight against racism and the race to the right.

In every state, there are public servants and teachers locked in battles with Liberal governments. A united fight by the unions could bring those struggles together and pose an alternative to the market solutions of Labor and the Liberals.

Most importantly it is out of those struggles that we can begin to build an alternative to their system that produces cuts and crisis. A year after Occupy, the need for a fight against the power and privileges of the 1 per cent has never been greater.


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